Why a Sense of Humor is Key to Surviving as a Teacher

A teacher’s job can be delightful as well as exasperating at times. As a teacher you are put in charge of students from varying backgrounds and different homes; each home having their peculiarities. By virtue of being the teacher you are supposedly a fountain of knowledge. The idea is for you to fill some couple of empty skulls with knowledge drawn from your reservoir of knowledge. Quite a frightening prospect, if you ask me. But how do the students look at you. Well, that depends on the age bracket of the class. Teachers of kindergarten classes enjoy the reverence that a fountain of knowledge should enjoy. The innocent souls look up to you for every perplexity that assails their young minds. In fact, your words are gospel to them. They are the ones who often argue with parents at home with the line: My teacher said’ or that is not how my teacher said it should be done.’

But for college and high school students, the story is very different. Your students would like to test your will power, your knowledge and your competence as a teacher. Some even derive pleasure from discomfiting a teacher. But any teacher worthy of his or her calling as a teacher would ride through these teacup storms easily with a good sense of humor mixed with the confidence that comes from preparedness and competence.

I remember my first year in the University. My class comprised a bunch of over excited young boys and girls with weird notions of lecturers. While all of us were gathered in the auditorium for a course that was reputed to be particularly tough, a young lady, whom we mistook as one of us, mounted the podium. Many voices, particularly from the boys called on her to get off the podium before the lecturer for the course arrived. Some even threw paper balls at her. But she stood there firmly with a calm composure. With a mischievous twinkle in her eyes she announced, “Freshmen, I will give you a few minutes to get over the shock that I am your lecturer.” A complete calmness descended upon the class. She picked up a few of the paper balls, held her palm out and continued, “Thank goodness I survived these missiles. For one moment I feared I was in Iraq instead of a lecture auditorium.” Then she smiled and went on with the lecture, having put everybody at ease with her disarming smile.

A sense of humor is key to a teacher’s survival in diverse situations. Sometimes, some students might deliberately want to provoke you by creating a scene. Your sense of humor acts as detonating device that defuses the tension which otherwise could lead to an ugly confrontation. Your sense of humor helps you not only to disarm the trouble makers, but it also endears you to majority of the class members, thus creating allies for you in enemy’ territory, so to say. Students like a teacher with good sense of humor. They are at ease with you and they learn better when they are at ease.

Giving teachers nicknames seems to be a favorite pastime of students. A sense of humor helps a teacher to smile at the idea associated with the nickname. The type of nickname a teacher might be given and the reason for the choice can range from the subject the teacher takes to his mode of dressing or even diction (style of speech). When I was in college, we nicknamed a particular Biology teacher, Cytoplasm’ because of the way she pronounced the word. When I became a teacher my students nicknamed me Patti Boulaye after a popular musician. When I got to know about the nickname I laughed and told my students that I actually loved to be associated with that musician, though I never got to know their reason for that choice of nickname.

Students will create tensions deliberately to test a teacher’s will power, or just to provoke a teacher to anger. But a sense of humor protects you from anger while disappointing the troublesome students.

Without a sense of humor a teacher is likely to be at odds with the students most of the time. A teacher lacking in sense of humor would take up students with the authorities for such minor offences as nicknaming, name calling and making passes. And the authorities will at some point declare you touchy and incapable of relating well with students. A sense of humor is associated with wisdom. It is a great tool in managing students and any teacher worth his or her salt must have it in abundance to succeed as a teacher.

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